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Dating A Coworker (13 Safe Ways To Date A Coworker)

by Sonya Schwartz

The world of human interaction is a complicated web of emotions, motives, mind games, and sometimes even politics. 

Everyday relationships like parent-to-child, teacher-to-student, and even stranger to stranger relationships are beneficial and necessary, but they require certain social skills to thrive.

Dating takes human relationships to a whole new level of risk. Anyone who decides to invest in a relationship knows they'd have to give their time, emotions and risk being vulnerable. 

Sometimes, these emotional investments pay off and end up as happily-ever-afters while others eventually come to an end, pretty badly in some cases.

Dating A Coworker

Dating coworkers makes things even more complicated. Ordinary, everyday romances are complicated enough but dating within the workplace has got to be the riskiest thing ever. There's a lot at stake here. If things go south with this person, it could affect your performance at work and perhaps, cost you your career. To make things worse, your boss and other co-workers may be affected in the process.

Most companies have zero tolerance for workplace romance which is very understandable, however, many companies have realized that there are exceptions to this narrative. There have been numerous successful love stories where people meet at work and end up getting married. Some people don't have much of a social life outside work and the only time they get to meet people is at work. 

So, making these strict policies on workplace romances may not be all good, it could stop some people from finding a life partner. Though there's a high risk to it, there's a wise way to go about it. If you happen to find yourself in the middle of an office romance, then here are a few tips on how to date a coworker while reducing the risks of getting fired. 

13 Ways To Date A Coworker (And Not Get Fired)

1. Don't rush things

don't rush things

As mentioned above, being with a coworker is a big risk. If you have to do it you need to make sure both of you understand what you're getting yourself into and how your professional life would be affected if things don't work out. 

Once you find out that your co-worker has feelings for you and you'd like to reciprocate those feelings, take your time to think things through before you take any action. Seeing anyone at all (including a co-worker) could go several ways, the best of these being a marriage and the worst being a heartbreak. 

If you're the emotional type and you don't feel you'd be comfortable at the office if things don't work out, then you may need to reconsider, because there's a chance that things won't work out.

You also have to consider if the person you're falling for is someone worth taking this risk for. If we're all honest with ourselves, we know when a potential partner is just a fling or someone we see ourselves within the long run. While accessing the situation, ask yourself if this person is worth jeopardizing your professional growth. 

2. Be sure of your company's formal policy

If your company has strict rules on peer-peer romance, then you should seriously consider avoiding the situation at all cost. The risk of losing your job is way too high and may show very badly on your recommendation when looking for the next job. Make sure to read through the employee handbook to see what your employers say about this.

There are still people who choose to disregard company rules and sneak around with a coworker. This hardly ever works out, so if you’re considering it, please think again. Most companies don’t completely forbid office romance, there may just be a few clauses. So, find out what they are and try to follow them. 

3. Have a chat with HR

This is also part of most companies’ policies and is a major part of good work ethics. It's advisable to discuss with your human resource manager, even if your company has a strict no dating policy. They aren’t going to terminate your employment just for asking questions. 

Most companies encourage transparency. Not necessarily with co-workers but with management (specifically human resources). They would probably ask you both to go talk with HR and then sign a few consent forms. Many workplaces would not tolerate a boss-subordinate relationship. So, if you were thinking of getting romantically involved with a superior or subordinate, you may want to consider changing your mind about that or changing jobs.

4. Make ground rules and set boundaries

There should be a boundary-setting discussion at the beginning of every relationship, so you and your partner can get on the same page about a few rules. With regards to seeing a fellow staff member, you may have to tighten the reins a bit more. Aside from all the chemistry and sparks flying, your first date should involve discussions on how to stay professional. 

Discuss what should be done at work and what shouldn't. Discuss your mode and tone of conversation at work. Also, if your company isn't against office romance, then you should decide if you'd want your co-workers to know about this recent development. 

If you aren’t in the same department at work and don't have to see each other often, perhaps, you could agree to use this to your advantage and keep the distance. You could also agree to avoid all public displays of affection. 

Talk about everything! This is why you need to give yourself enough time to think things through, so you could identify areas that would require extra care. 

5. Don't let your emotions affect your job

Relationships always have their ups and downs and the truth is you and your partner will have friction now and then. Just like you don't allow the events in your personal life to affect your work responsibilities, don't allow your work relationship to affect your career.

This especially applies to subordinate-boss relationships. Going out with your boss is not the best idea but if you feel you can handle the situation, you must ensure that your fights don't get in the way of your performance at work. 

If the person in question is your manager or supervisor, you'd have to respect and carry out his instructions regardless of what happened between you guys. You’d still need to keep your work interactions very professional. 

Also, if you're the superior in this case it may be difficult for you to criticize your partner's work and put the necessary pressure on them to meet deadlines when necessary. Preferential treatment is not an option in this case that is an ethics discussion. Situations like these could upset the other coworkers and cause a significant drop in the organization’s overall performance. 

6. Keep things discrete

keep things discrete

Even if you decide not to keep things completely secret, try your best to be discreet about your relationship. That means that during everyday interactions with your coworkers, try not to get carried away discussing experiences you’ve had with your partner, or making inside jokes in group settings. It could be awkward for them or could distract them from getting their work done. 

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Also, rubbing your relationship in everyone's face would make other coworkers uncomfortable. Truth be told, you don’t even need to disclose your relationship to your fellow employees, they’ve probably already noticed it and don’t care enough to make a big deal out of it. So, there's no need to scream it from the rooftops.

It's also advisable to save the PDA for after office hours, apart from the fact that it's completely unnecessary, it's the height of unprofessionalism. 

7. Don't use official platforms to send personal messages to each other

When you're in love with a person, it's normal to have that walking-on-sunshine feeling. Your serotonin and dopamine levels are high at this point and this could alter the way you think. You may act almost the same way you would after having a few glasses of wine. Feelings like these could make you get carried away and make silly decisions even though you’re the professional one in the relationship.

If you have access to company email accounts or their accounts on social media, avoid sending direct messages to each other using these mediums. If you're logged on to company accounts on either your phone or laptop, make sure that you aren't using those to send your partner a flirty message or any personal messages at all. This could be very awkward for coworkers who also have access to these accounts.

8. Don't discuss work issues on dates or personal hangouts

Do as much as you can to keep your work life separate from your relationship. This may be harder than it sounds since you both spend a large chunk of your day at the office. However, it would be better for your relationship if you handled work issues at work alone.

Having a work-life balance is essential for every healthy individual. If you're talking about work both in and out of the workplace, then you'd have no life outside the workplace. There's also the issue of bias, especially if you hold a managerial or supervisory position. Discussing your co-worker's performances with your partner may determine the way you treat your coworkers at work.

9. You may have to work a bit harder

Once your fellow staff members find out about you and your partner, there's a high chance that they'd start observing you a bit more. Whatever you do, try your best not to give anyone a reason to think or say that you're slacking at work because of your relationship. 

You may have to work a bit harder than you usually do. Put more effort into your work and make sure that you're making significant progress in your projects. 

Stay focused and try to keep the displays of affection away from the workplace. The moment your co-workers notice you're canoodling on company time, they'll immediately tag you unserious even though they don't spend 100% of their own time working. 

Yes, this is asking you to overcompensate, this is one of the only instances where it’s needed. Whether you like it or not, their opinions will affect you. If they have a negative perception of you, it could make your work experience there very uncomfortable.

10. Also, consider the best-case scenario

It's important to think about and discuss worst-case scenarios, but also think about what would happen if things do work out.

For some people, this would be their cue to change jobs or change their department at work. As nice as it is to have so much in common with your spouse, as time goes on things could get a little monotonous. So for the sake of keeping things interesting, some couples may prefer to work separately from each other. 

The more a relationship advances and thrives within the workplace, the higher the chances of nepotism and other unethical practices. When you love a person, it's really hard to follow the rules, especially at your partner's expense. So, whatever your decision is, if your workplace romance turns into a happily ever after, make sure to consider all these things.

11. Be honest with yourselves

be honest with yourselves

No one wants to have a failed relationship, especially when there's so much at stake. This is Why most people ignore red flags when they're supposed to see them as warning signs. 

It could be tempting to smooth over clear differences because you want to avoid the awkwardness of working together after a breakup. This does not mean that every fight or disagreement is the end of the relationship, just make sure you don't ignore clear signs that it's time to end things. 

Let's face it, seeing each other every single day, both at work and home, could be good for some couples. It could be a good way for them to bond more. However, for some other couples, it could get very boring. Decide early on that if you aren’t interested in the relationship anymore, you’d let each other know. There's no shame in ending things if things aren’t working anymore. 

12. Consider the legal risks

Since the emergence of the #metoo movement, individuals, groups, organizations, and institutions have tightened their policies. No company wants to deal with complicated and expensive lawsuits. One reason most companies place a complete ban on intra-office relationships today is for legal reasons. 

It's very easy for an upset heartbroken employee to file a sexual harassment lawsuit just because their work romance ended badly. This is most frequent with boss-subordinate relationships and is the primary reason why these types of relationships should be avoided. 

If you occupy a supervisory or managerial position at work, it may be wise for you to discuss a departmental change or a job change for the sake of your career. If you can help it, it's better to avoid being with an employee who is your subordinate or your superior.

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13. If things don't work out, other coworkers are off-limits

No matter how non-existent your social life is, your company pool is not your dating pool. You can't just go from one staff member to the other. If your current relationship does not work out and you’ve chosen to stick with your current job, it would reflect poorly on you if you go ahead to date someone else at the office.

After a breakup, everyone needs some time to heal and to get over the other person. It's even harder when you have to see this person every single day. Don't complicate things for your ex by getting involved with someone else right under their nose. It could arouse a bad reaction from them or could affect their performance at work. 

FAQs

Is it unprofessional to date a coworker?

Getting involved with a co-worker may not always be described as unprofessional; however, it is quite complicated. Most human resource officials advise against it because investing your emotions where you should build your career can end up very badly for you. In addition, your work performance may suffer too.

Can an employer fire you for dating a coworker?

Some companies are very clear about their dating policy; they do not tolerate it at all. So if you work for a company that has this rule, then yes you can get fired for being with a staff member. However, if your company says nothing about this, then you may be able to date whoever you wish.

Is it a good idea to date someone at work?

Some people are lucky enough to have met their spouses where they worked; not everyone is that lucky. A lot can go wrong in a coworker-to-coworker relationship and to be honest, it may not be worth the risk. If it could cost you your career, then it's not a good idea. 

How can you tell if a coworker likes you?

Everyone can tell when someone likes them. You'd either notice the flirty gestures, the stares, or the favors they do for you. However, if you're confused and you want to be sure they aren’t just being friendly, then the only way to be sure is to find out from them. 

Why do bosses sleep with employees?

There are multiple reasons why some bosses could sleep with an employee. In some cases, a boss may genuinely like a particular employee and share some real chemistry with them. However, in most cases, it's about power play. Some bosses feel that a good way to show exert dominance is to demand sex in exchange for job security. 

In Conclusion

I hope you found this article helpful. Remember, it's important to check your company’s policies on office romance before jumping into a relationship with your peer. Losing your relationship over a fling is not worth it. Please let us know what you think about this article in the comment section, and be sure to share it.

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Sonya Schwartz
A hopeless romantic that struggled for many years to find her Mr "Right" and made all the mistakes you could think of while dating. Known for always choosing the wrong guys or messing up relationships, Sonya was finally able to change her approach and mindset when it came to dating which helped her eventually find the man of her dreams and become happily married. You can read more about me here...

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